Sperm Whale Vomit. Yes, You Read It Right The First Time. Streaky Bay, Australia.

whale vomit
10 Years Fresh - Ambergris. (photo: tc-sportingclub.com)

I generally believe the Biblical proclamation that there is nothing new under the sun. However, there are those times when something is so absolutely new to me that it almost renders me speechless…almost. Whale vomit is one of those things.

Ambergris is, in simple terms, whale vomit. More accurately, it is bile that aids in a sperm whale’s digestion. Occasionally the sperm whale will belch or “puke” this bile out of its system along with indigestible items like squid beaks and hubcaps. Sperm whale vomit is the only type of whale vomit that can become ambergris. This vomit is lighter than water therefore it floats on top of the ocean, and the top of the ocean is where sperm whale barf eventually transforms into ambergris. Like precious pearls, much time must pass before worthless whale waste becomes prized ambergris. After roughly ten years of being cleansed and cradled by the open sea, air and sun, ambergris is ripe. Ambergris is described as having a “musty, sweet and smooth” scent. (This is not the case when it is freshly expelled from the whale; at that moment it is especially foul, like vomit should be.) Because of this special scent, perfume makers covet ambergris. How much do they covet it? Currently good ambergris runs between $20 - $65US for one gram. Forget the pink iPod. Could whale barf be this year’s hot Valentine’s Day gift? Go on, be the first on your block!

If you’re anything like me, you point and laugh at those guys who scan the beach looking for lost pirate booty or Rolex watches with their dorky metal detectors. However, they’re most likely the kind of people who would end up finding ambergris worth millions. Who’s laughing now?

Jonathan Swift once wrote, "He was a bold man that first eat an oyster." Clearly Mr. Swift never made the acquaintance of an ambergris aficionado because in comparison an oyster eater is utterly ordinary and a culinary coward to boot. So again, if you are like me, you start to fantasize about how whale vomit might taste. I mean, if it smells so good, it might kinda taste good too. Right? Of course, others have already beat me to it. As early as 1000 B.C., Arabians and, surprise, surprise, the Chinese were using ambergris as seasoning and aphrodisiacs.

If you are ever lucky enough to get your hands on some heavenly whale barf, here is a delightful recipe you might consider using, with ambergris as the key ingredient.

“The Lord Conway his Lordships receipt (archaic word for recipe) for the making of Amber Puddings:

First take the Guts of a young hog, and wash them very clean, and then take two pound of the best hogs fat, and a pound and a halfe of the best Jordan almonds the which being blancht, take one half of them, & beat them very small, and the other halfe reserve whole unbeaten then take a pound and a halfe of fine Sugar and four white Loaves, and grate the Loaves over the former composition and mingle them well together in a bason having so done, put to it halfe an ounce of Ambergreece
(ambergris) the which must be scrapt very small over the said composition take halfe a quarter of an ounce of levant musk and bruise it in a marble morter, with a quarter of a Pint of Orange Flower water then mingle these all very well together, and having so done, fill the said Guts ther-with, this Receipt was given his Lordship by an Italian for a great rariety, and has been found so to be by those Ladies of honour to whom his Lordship has imparted the said reception.”

From W.M., The Queen's Closet Opened(London: 1655). SOURCE.

I suggest a pairing of bird’s nest soup with Lord Conway’s Amber Pudding. After all, what better to wash down whale vomit than a nice bowl of bird saliva. A votre santé!

(Ambergris - Available On ebay!)


Anonymous said…
oh. my .gawd. my stomach starts to churn at the thought.
Stephanie said…
Very interesting post. Bird and whale barf, eh? Sounds like Chinese cuisine alright.
Juliet said…
You are a brave man indeed. LOL What's next? Elephant droppings sprinkled with monkey toe jam?
I'll stick to the yumminiess of chicken feet and 1,000-year-old eggs.

Oh, and one more thing.

Xin nian kuaile! :-)
Eddie Lin said…

if your stomach churns then expels something, make sure you do it out in the open sea and go back ten years later when you'll need it for your retirement fund. yes, i am now a financial adviser.


yes, sounds and probably smells like chinese cuisine. the question remains: what won't chinese people eat?

p.s. you gotta cool blog.


i wouldn't call myself brave in this case. i never tried it. i'm just reporting this one. and i'm certain it is illegal in the U.S. next time i'm in france, australia, the middle east or asia, i might hunt it down. happy chinese new year to you too!!


is honey really bee puke? awesome! i've been putting bee barf in my tea for all these years and didn't even know it. wait till i tell all my vegetarian friends!!
Juliet said…
But you are brave for wanting to try whale puke in the first place. :-)
Robyn said…
....noooooo...whale vomit...NOOOO!

I love bee barf and I particularly enjoy saying "bee barf" instead of honey, hehehehe. Since it's...um, bee barf, I don't think honey is considered vegan (if you're HARDCOOORE). Ah well, I'm far from being vegan. :)
Anonymous said…
It made me thing of an old joke:

A man goes into a restaurants and after checking out the menu orders veal tongue. Shortly after he calls the waiter back and he says:

"Sorry I chamged my mind, when I think aabout where the tongue has been...bring me two eggs insted!!!"

WE ALL EAT EGGS, don't we?!?!?!?!?!? so what's the fuss???!!!!!!!
elmomonster said…
WTF?! I learn something new everyday. The first time I've heard of this and who else but you to break the news to me.

Your investigative prowess rivals any professional journalists out there...unless you are a professional journalist?!
Eddie Lin said…

it's very, very nice of you to call me "brave", most would say i'm a knucklehead.


yeeeess, whaaaale vooomiiit. the only thing worser than eating whale vomit is having a whale vomit all over you. also bee barf (honey) is amberish and so is whale barf (eventually). they both are sweetish. so maybe this ambergris isn't so bad after all!! plus, doesn't ambergris (pronounced-amber gree) sound just as nice as the word "honey"? i think it does.


what is this? open mic night at deep end dining? also, don't drink and type. it's the law.


thanks, but i'm no pro journalist. i'm just good with the google and i'm a news junkie. but i'm glad i could teach you something worth while like the art of eating whale vomit. tell your friends. teach the children.
BoLA said…
YAK! Oh my gosh! I've had whale before, but not to my liking. But whale VOMIT?!
Eddie Lin said…

did you know most people will ingest at least fifty pounds of puke in their lifetime...and not their own! chew on that, woman!


it sounds like a pirate receipt! ARRRR, matey, savvy?
Anonymous said…
Whales puke indigestible items like squid beaks and hubcabs? I always wondered how Jonah survived.
Anonymous said…
Ambergris is mentioned in an episode of Futurama (Three Hundred Big Boys, where Fry drinks 100 cups of coffee). Kif gets it vomited all over him by a whale at an amusement park, and then gets arrested for stealing 'their property'. First place I ever heard of it. Mention of that episode, along with much more information, can be found at the Wikipedia entry for ambergris.
Eddie Lin said…
Eveeel Timmy,

I learned about that episode of Futurama when I was doing research for this article. The references are fast and loose on those shows.
Anonymous said…
hmmm very interesting , has taken me a while to find a picture of whale vomit, but my friend who asked me to look it up will be pleased due to his unusaul find on the beach this week. Fingers crossed!!!
Anonymous said…
Ill post back to let u know if it really is!!!
Eddie Lin said…

thanks and good luck to your friend!
Anonymous said…
dunno bout sperm whale or vomit but i eat my own sperm an it taste pretty good
Anonymous said…
Hm, I metal detect in Guam and have found some of this whale puke, Ive been saving it for a while and never knew what it was. I thought it could of been some kinda world war junk. It looks and feels just like aluminum, but doesnt break down like it, it was very strange and I saved it. One local guy told me it was whale puke and saw an episode about it on TV, here I am confirming it. Funny.
prakruthi said…
wow!! thats cool, tell me how it tastes.OK?
Anonymous said…
Holy Cow,or Holy Whale,You can become super rich and pay off your Depts and keep alot of money for yourself,Just Like Tony Montana said,first you get the Money ,than you Get the Women,Of course there is no such thing as easy money when it comes to Super rich Whale Puke.